Coach Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).
I think I have striven to be perfect my entire life. It is a. Exhausting and b. As Vince Lombardi is quoted above, unattainable.
Part of that desire to be perfect stems from feeling like I was so “imperfect” compared to those around me.
I didn’t have the traditional family background. I tended toward the chubby. My hair was mousey brown, as was my eye color. The prettiest girls had blonde hair and blue eyes, were slender, made cheerleader, twirled or tapped.
I could do none of that. I was a good reader and quite the little ham when I could pretend to be someone other than myself. I was considered a “smarty-pants” sometimes because I was so eager to show the teacher I knew the answer.
How else could I prove I was perfect. ( It was actually excruciating for me to sit in silence waiting for someone else to answer when I knew what it was – that seemed like a dumb waste of time to me!)
But If I shone in the classroom, I truly flunked recess – always the last picked for a team. Be it dodge ball, kick ball or soft ball, I was never “on the ball” when it came to athletics.
The fact I couldn’t run without losing a bit of urine was highly embarrassing. Oh how I hated that stupid blue, one piece gym suit we were forced to wear! Oh how hard I prayed that no one noticed how imperfect my bladder control was! ( We did not have panty liners in the 60s – Kotex was for your period, period.)
Have I ever even felt I was excellent at anything? I have felt I was a very good employee. No matter the job I held, I usually received awards and kudos for it.
But that isn’t the perfection for which I now strive. Rather, my desire is to know God now as perfectly as I can while I am on earth so that hopefully my knowledge of him in heaven will be the greater and come to me a bit sooner.
(Full confession here: the Protestant in me still struggles with the idea of Purgatory. I keep coming back to the argument that Jesus died once and for all for my sins or his crucifixion would be a waste. But the Catechism says I must burnish myself of all my attachments before I can stand in God’s presence, so I accept what doesn’t make perfect sense, on faith.)
Still, how I long to be like Peter, James and John, looking on in Jesus’ transfiguring moment as he talks with Moses and Elijah on the mountaintop. To hear the voice of God say “This is my beloved son; in him I am well-pleased.”
To have Jesus turn then to me and say “well done, my disciple” – for me that would be perfection.
I pray I can at least attain excellence.
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)